By Julie Tomascik

Texas is changing and growing. The Lone Star State is home to more than 28.3 million people, according to data released late last year.

That’s a lot of folks. And a lot of homes, shopping centers, restaurants, stores and more.

What does that surging population mean for Texas farmers and ranchers?

It’s a loss of land.

Population growth means an increased demand for homes and services. That kicks up the price for land, meaning farmers can’t afford to buy it. But sometimes farmers can’t afford not to sell their land.

It depends what side of the fence you’re on when it comes to skyrocketing land values.

But farmers and ranchers can stay on the land and keep it in production for future generations. Land trusts and conservation easements with financial incentives offer farmers and ranchers a way to do so.

Texas is still a rural state, but it’s growing more urban every year. That’s both an opportunity and a challenge for rural Texas. It’s a chance for farmers to connect with consumers like you and me, but it also means a loss of our state’s working lands and natural resources.

We need private land and our farmers and ranchers to pursue modern agriculture. That land and the people who work it grow our food, conserve water and preserve wildlife habitat.

We need to keep private property in agriculture. We need to keep farmers and ranchers on the land. Because it’s good for the land and good for Texas. And that’s also good for you and me.